OPINION: Police Services Board Needs to Say No CEWs without Cameras

Today, the Hamilton Police Services Board is expected to take it’s final vote on arming all of Hamilton’s front-line police officers with Conductive Energy Weapons.

They should first attach a condition to the request: Every officer equipped with a CEW must also be equipped with a lapel camera.

Last week the police services board held a public hearing to allow for input from citizens on the devices. During this meeting, Hamilton’s Police Chief Glenn DeCaire announced a funding arrangement had been found for the devices.

They will be funded from a surplus from the Police Services’ pension plan that was put aside in 1996 to be spent for investments in officer safety. What is required to use the funds is an agreement of the two associations representing Hamilton’s sworn police officers: the Hamilton Police Association and the Hamilton Police Senior Officers Association.

The associations have offered to pay the capital costs of expanding the number of CEWs in the Hamilton Police, saving the police budget $468,000. Chief DeCaire says the additional maintenance and training costs can be absorbed within the existing operating budget.

It is the Hamilton Police Services Board that gets the final say in deciding if officers will be carrying CEWs in 2014. They can, and should, attach strong policies to ensure CEWs are properly used and that accountability is in place to ensure all evidence is available for review whenever a CEW is deployed.

One of the suggestions offered to the Police Services Board is purchasing CEWs equipped with video cameras.

We need to go one step better, every officer needs to be equipped with a lapel camera.

Video Benefits Police

Hamilton Police witnessed last week the benefits of video when an arrest involving a Hamilton Police officer went viral on Youtube. In the video, the filming bystander and person arrested are both accusing the arresting officer of using excessive force.

The video proved the officer used restraint in making the arrest. Without the video, it would be the officers word against the word of the other two people.

Thousands of people praised Hamilton Police for their restraint and the video is, arguably, the best publicity Hamilton Police have received in years.

Video Benefits Citizens

In California, misconduct complaints at the Rialto Police Department (pop. 93,284) decreased 88 percent year-over-year after the introduction of cameras worn by half of the city’s uniform patrol – this includes among officers without cameras.

During the same time, the use of force by officers went down 60 percent.

The Time is Now

Hamilton’s Police Services Board has the opportunity to improve public trust in policing and to protect it’s officers from frivolous complaints.

It’s time for lapel cameras to be standard issue.